Tag Archives: Miss No-Name

Slave of the Swan (1978)

Sample Images

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Published: 1 April 1978 to 29 July 1978 (18 episodes)

Artist: Guy Peeters

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: De wraak van de Zwaan [Revenge of the Swan] (in: Tina 1980)

Plot

Katrina Vale is a talented ballerina. Her mother is a ballet teacher, but has to work as a cheap one. Therefore life’s so much on the poverty line that Mum collapses of malnutrition from having to cut meals, and she’s taken to hospital. Katrina has to find a relative to look after her or it’s welfare, but Mum has never talked about any relations or her past life. A search of Mum’s belongings reveals she used to be a famous ballerina, under the name of Katia Groves. This is quite a surprise to Katrina, who was never told any of this, and is puzzled as to why things changed so much for Mum (yes, why did they?). Another ballerina, Rosa Kachinksy aka “The Swan”, was Mum’s best friend. Katrina finds the address for the ballet school Kachinsky runs in London and decides to go to Kachinsky for help. But in London Katrina gets hit by a hit-and run driver and loses her memory. She makes it to Kachinsky’s school but now has no idea why she came or who she is.

Kachinsky catches on to who Katrina is, though. Unfortunately she’s gone from Mum’s best friend to her worst enemy because she blames Mum for being confined to a wheelchair. Now she intends to use Katrina to wreak her revenge. So she takes advantage of Katrina’s amnesia to feed her an orchestrated tissue of lies to make Katrina her slave and keep her away from her mother forever.

It starts with Kachinsky telling Katrina that her name is Mary Black, and she’s been taken from an orphanage to work as a servant. Soon she is turning Katrina into a drudge who is lumbered with all the worst jobs around the place, and loving every minute of watching Katrina slave away. And of course she isn’t paying Katrina a penny for all the work; she tells Katrina that she’s living off her charity. But that’s only the beginning.

Kachinsky gives Katrina a ragged hair cut while she’s in a drugged sleep to prevent anyone recognising her from newspaper reports of her being missing (and no doubt Kachinsky enjoyed giving the poor girl that dreadful haircut!). When Kachinsky sees Katrina stealing moments to dance she puts her feet into deliberately heavy boots, on pretext they are medical boots, to stop her dancing and anyone getting suspicious.

The ballet pupils begin to notice how Kachinsky is treating Katrina. They sympathise with Katrina and tell her she’d being exploited. Their sympathy grows when Katrina plays a piece of music she finds and Kachinsky is so upset that she slams the piano lid so hard on Katrina’s hands that her fingers are badly bruised. They tell her that she was playing “The Swan”, a title role that was created especially for Kachinsky, and it’s where her nickname comes from. It was Kachinsky’s final triumph, for soon after she had the accident that crippled her.

During this same incident Kachinsky made a slip that she knew Katrina’s parents. When Katrina confronts Kachinsky, she spins a line that the parents were thieves who died in prison. She takes advantage of Katrina reclaiming a piece of her mother’s jewellery to plant ideas in Katrina’s mind that she is a thief too. She also makes threats that if Katrina leaves she will get no references. After this, Kachinsky is confident Katrina won’t leave, no matter how badly she is treated.

Seeing that the ballet pupils are getting suspicious and sympathising with Katrina, Kachinsky decides her next move is to turn them against her. She begins working on Sarah by making it look like Katrina is stealing from her. When the ‘theft’ is discovered Kachinsky spins out more lies about Katrina’s ‘criminal’ past right in front of the whole school. The plan works. Now the girls think Katrina’s a thief and turn against her.

However, Sarah is still friendly and treats Katrina to a ballet performance. Katrina feels ballet is the key to her past and hopes for a clue there. There she hears people repeating a long-standing rumour that within an hour of performing “The Swan”, the woman who was Kachinsky’s best friend deliberately crippled her out of jealousy. That woman is Katrina’s mother. So now we know why Kachinsky is out for revenge. But from what we have seen of both Kachinsky and Mrs Vale, can we really believe the rumour is true? We need to get Mrs Vale’s side of things.

Meanwhile, the police finally trace Katrina to Kachinsky’s ballet school. Kachinsky manages to mislead them, but then realises Katrina is missing because she’s still at the ballet. There Katrina has impressed performers with her own ballet talent. And while she was dancing, fragments of memory began to return, but they are not strong enough. When Kachinsky arrives she drags Katrina off and says she’s having delusions.

However, Katrina is finally beginning to doubt what Mrs Kachinsky is telling her. She and Sarah go in search of the orphanage. Kachinsky finds out and pulls another trick: she leads them to a burned-out orphanage and takes advantage of it having been deliberately burned down and someone dying in the fire to have Katrina believe she’s a fire bug and a murderer as well as a thief, and she’s wanted by the police for it. She found Katrina in a daze after the ‘incident’ and took her in and kept her safe from the police because she believed she deserved a second chance. After this, Katrina is now well and truly in the power of the Swan, for she now believes that Kachinsky is her only friend who did so much for her. She now does any job for Kachinsky, no matter how horrible, without complaint or payment, because she thinks this is the only way to repay her. Kachinsky realises Katrina’s completely in her power now too, and is crying for joy.

While Katrina spring-cleans Kachinsky’s room, she accidentally finds a secret room hidden behind the wardrobe. It is a shrine filled with Kachinsky memorabilia, and even includes the costume from “The Swan”.

Then Kachinsky’s chauffeur gossips about Katrina being an arsonist and hysteria spreads about her pulling the same thing at the school. Kachinsky takes advantage to keep Katrina locked in a disused coal cellar to sleep. There Katrina gets a frightening visitor – someone in the Swan costume! Next morning she checks the Swan costume and finds evidence it has been moved recently, and concludes someone took it and used it to frighten her.

The rumours about Katrina being an arsonist grow more intense. So when Sarah’s costume accidentally catches fire, tongues wag that Katrina caused it although she saved Sarah by putting out the flames. Sarah goes to hospital and now Katrina has lost her only friend.

Katrina’s such a bag of nerves now about her ‘arson’ and everyone turning against her that she takes off in a panic when a policeman calls. She also sees a strange woman lurking around and thinks she is a plain-clothed policewoman who is on her tail. When she tells Kachinsky this, Kachinsky tells her that the woman is just a new ballet student, Rita Hayes. All the same, Katrina remains convinced that she’s right when Rita seems to be watching her, snooping around in her room and asking her questions.

Meanwhile, the Swan costume is resurrected again. Katrina is surprised to find someone dancing in the costume in the ballet studio to “The Swan” music. She can’t see who it is because the headdress obscures the face. The mysterious dancer doesn’t seem able to dance properly. She throws a real hissy fit and smashes the ballet record.

When Katrina goes to Kachinsky to report the matter she finds Rita snooping around in Kachinsky’s office. Katrina doesn’t listen when Rita tries to explain, and that it’s for her own good. Katrina alerts Kachinsky, but they find Rita has cleared out. Kachinsky realises Rita’s snooping must be because she is onto her game with Katrina and gone to alert the police. Not wanting to be cheated of her revenge before it is complete, she decides to get rid of Katrina altogether before the police arrive.

On pretext she is helping to conceal Katrina from arrest, Kachinsky takes Katrina to a rusty old boat in the canal to hide, but in fact she means to kill Katrina there. When Katrina enters the boat she is surprised to hear somebody shut the hatch on her, which locks her in. For a while Katrina does nothing because she has been fooled by Kachinsky’s assurances that her chauffeur will come with supplies. Meanwhile, the police have arrived to question Kachinsky. The pupils are perturbed at how pleased Kachinsky seems to be at Katrina’s disappearance, which seems very odd considering what she had them believe about her taking care of Katrina before.

Back in the boat, Katrina finally realises nobody is coming, but assumes it is because something happened to Kachinsky. But when the tide causes water to rise in the rusty old tub (as Kachinsky planned) Katrina realises she has to get out fast or she will drown. After a desperate struggle she succeeds.

Katrina is in a dreadful state but, thinking Kachinsky did not return as promised because something happened to her, staggers back to the ballet school to check on her. There she collapses, in full sight of her mother, who recognises her at once. Mum has tracked Katrina down, with the aid of Sarah’s family and Rita Hayes. It turns out Rita Hayes was a private investigator Sarah’s family had hired to help Katrina; it was part gratitude for saving Sarah and part suspicion about Kachinsky’s treatment of Katrina.

However, Mum now fears Katrina is dead. Seeing this, Kachinsky crows – right in front of everyone, including the police – she has taken her revenge at last by robbing Mrs Vale of her daughter. At this, the police arrest Kachinsky.

But no – Katrina is still alive, and she regains her memory when her mother addresses her by her proper name. Mum explains to Katrina that she and Kachinsky used to be best friends at a ballet company, and she never minded that Kachinsky was the better dancer. However, following Kachinsky’s one and only (and unforgettable) performance as “The Swan”, she was crippled by a fall down a staircase and wrongly accused Mum of pushing her out of jealousy. The accusation was widely believed and Mum was forced to leave the stage. “The Swan” has never been performed since and the swan costume itself disappeared. At this, Katrina leads Mum and Sarah to the secret room full of Kachinsky memorabilia.

Then in comes Kachinsky. She had given the police the slip – and she’s walking! She had secretly regained the use of her legs years ago. She kept it quiet because she could never dance properly again and couldn’t settle for anything less than perfection, and she enjoyed playing on people’s sympathy into the bargain. Katrina now realises Kachinsky was the one in the swan costume, and Kachinsky deliberately shut her in the rusty old tub – to die. Kachinsky gleefully admits both charges and tells Katrina “what a trusting little fool” she was to fall for those tricks and all the other lies. As the police take Kachinsky back into custody she raves that she still has more than Mrs Vale, who in her view has nothing. But Katrina does not agree – and neither do we.

Thoughts

There have been hundreds of stories about unscrupulous people taking advantage of amnesiac girls for their own ends, such as Jinty’s “Miss No-Name”. But this one could well be the most disturbing, even sickening, of them all. Usually the people who take advantage of an amnesiac protagonist are just doing it for profit and unpaid labour. Feeding them lies about having shady pasts and being on the run from the police to blackmail them into staying is a pretty common trick; Mandy’s “The Double Life of Dolly Brown” aka “The Double Life of Coppelia Brown” is one example. But the antagonist in this story isn’t doing it for money – she’s doing it for revenge. Of course it is useful to exploit someone for unpaid labour, but that isn’t her real motive; it’s just part of her campaign for revenge.

Having revenge as the motive for enslaving an amnesiac girl rather than the usual greed makes the story truly frightening. Revenge is extremely dangerous because it can drive the antagonist to the point where she has no limits. That certainly is the case with Kachinsky. She is capable of anything, including murder, to get revenge on the woman she hates. As Kachinsky’s revenge unfolds she reveals herself more and more as what a sick, cruel, twisted woman she is. She is not content with merely exploiting Katrina and keeping her away from her mother. She means to break Katrina entirely with endless psychological and emotional tortures at her ballet school, including using the swan costume to terrorise Katrina. When it comes to plotting murder, Kachinsky has no compunction or remorse about it either. When she tells Katrina to use a gangplank to go over to the boat she contemplates just pushing it away and knocking Katrina into the mud. But she decides against it because it’s too quick. She wants to watch and relish each minute of Katrina suffering slowly.

Kachinsky is also extremely clever in the ways she constantly manages to block Katrina’s attempts to remember her past and twist it around to reinforce her lies even more, cut Katrina off from avenues of help, and ensnare Katrina ever more tightly. Kachinsky pulls it off so well that Katrina ends up thoroughly convinced that Kachinsky is actually protecting her, that everything she does is for her own good, and that she actually deserves everything that she is going through because of her so-called arson, murder and thievery. Katrina is so taken in by Kachinsky’s lies that she does not even realise she is being exploited. This makes Katrina’s situation even worse than other amnesiac protagonists; at least they understand the antagonists are abusing and exploiting them. But Katrina can’t; she’s been so take in and brainwashed that she thinks the woman who is abusing her is actually her only friend. Readers would have been crying for Katrina every step of the way, not only because of the abuse she is going through but also because she can’t see it for what it is.

When it is revealed that Kachinsky had been faking paralysis all this time, it’s the last straw that puts her well beyond the pale. Her excuse for abusing Katrina is that it’s all revenge on the woman who confined her to the wheelchair. But when we discover Kachinsky isn’t really confined to the wheelchair at all – well, what a nerve she’s got there! The last possible reason for Kachinsky evoking any of our sympathy is gone.

It is only when we see Mrs Vale’s flashback of Kachinsky before the accident that we feel Kachinsky is in any way tragic. We can see she used to be a very nice woman who would never have even dreamed of doing all those things she did to Katrina. And she would still be a nice, happy woman if she hadn’t had the accident. But really, Kachinsky’s hatred destroyed her far more than the accident did.

It is no surprise to learn that Kachinsky wrongly accused Mrs Vale of causing her accident. This almost invariably is the case in revenge stories, and it makes everything all the worse for all concerned because we know it’s all been for nothing.

Is Kachinsky insane? Or is she just so full of hate it turned her into an evil, twisted monster? It is difficult to determine. Kachinsky does not come across as downright insane, just sick, cruel and perverted. Only a psychiatrist can judge on her state of mind, but we never find out what the courts decide to do with her. We can safely assume that she will lose her ballet school, her reputation, and all the sympathy and respect people have for her. When word spreads, people are certain to rethink Kachinsky’s accusations against Mrs Vale, and her reputation will be salvaged. Mrs Vale may even become a teacher at Kachinsky’s ballet school, or even take it over altogether. Who knows? Whatever the aftermath, we can be confident that the Vales’ revenge will be sweeter than Kachinsky’s.

Jinty and Lindy 7 February 1976

Jinty and Lindy 7 February 1976

Stories in this issue:

  • Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Friends of the Forest (unknown artist ‘Merry’)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Too Old To Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Wanda Whiter Than White (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Bound For Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)
  • Save Old Smokey! (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie) – first episode

I have some slightly random issues out at present which I dug out for other reasons but which haven’t yet been posted about, so I am seizing the day.

This run of Jinty is slightly middle-of-the-range: the fact that the covers have images from a variety of stories gives a diverse feel to them, but the square design layouts used are rather lifeless in comparison with the issues just a bit later on. Likewise, there are some good stories in this issue, but it is not as strong as subsequent issues, by a long chalk.

“Miss No-Name” has an amnesiac slave gymnast – nuff said, really. It is rather a mish-mash of tropes! Jim Baikie makes the slave-keepers look suitably evil but it is all rather over the top, and not in that good way. “Friends of the Forest” is beautifully drawn, though not outstanding in terms of story – at this point there is a mystery around the gypsy girl Maya, and some evil cousins to deal with.

“Fran of the Floods”, as in other issues, shines out as the strongest story – no wonder it ran for such a long time. This episode has the rain keeping on coming down, and life changing around everyone’s heads, even in staid suburban England. Fran is facing local flooding, stockpiling of food, and serious danger from the neighbours.

“Too Old To Cry!” is a story I have a soft spot for, perhaps due to the lovely Trini Tinturé artwork. Nell is trying to find her birth certificate, which she is sure has been hidden by Miss Grace, but inadvertently sets the place on fire!

“Wanda Whiter Than White” is also over the top, god love it. Wanda is high and mighty and dishing out black marks, and by twisting the situation nearly gets protagonist Susie expelled from the school (the punishment is commuted to a caning instead!). Luckily for Susie, the good relationship between her and her mother is strong enough to stand up to Wanda’s interfering ways when she tries to make trouble – though who knows what she will do in the next episode.

In “Bound for Botany Bay”, Betsy Tanner is almost looking forward to transportation to Australia, as it may mean she will see her father again. In the meantime she has been drawing portraits while she is in prison awaiting transportation – but will she be able to escape before she is tried?

This is the first episode of “Save Old Smokey!”. Drawn by Phil Townsend, it is mostly interesting to me nowadays for the social change it shows: the story is about a steam engine threatened with closure by local officials who are either heartless bureaucrats or out to make some money for themselves.

Jinty & Lindy 10 April 1976

Jinty 10 April 1976

  • Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • For Peter’s Sake! (artist Ana Rodriguez, writer Alison Christie)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Slave of Form 3B (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Friends of the Forest (unknown artist – Merry) – last episode
  • Bound for Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)
  • Save Old Smokey! (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Alley Cat

Covers from this period seemed to be very fond of showing off the athletic prowess of “Miss No-Name”. This one demonstrates how hurdling enables Lori to make a fast getaway. But she still can’t get away from those nasty Crabbes. She thinks she has found a safe haven but bumps into them again – hence the fast getaway on the cover.

Ironically, hurdling enables Katie the Jinx to make a fast getaway too in this issue – from an angry Mum – after she was daydreaming too much and flooded the kitchen. She had been daydreaming on how she would have fared in previous times. She decides she would have been just the same – except that she wouldn’t be able to get away so quickly in the clothes of the period and is thankful for modern skirt lengths.

The days of Penny Crayon and Do-It-Yourself Dot seem to be over. We are now in the era of Alley Cat.

“For Peter’s Sake” is fully established in this episode. Gran has died, leaving Corrie with a note to push Old Peg to Peter in the full confidence that the pram will cure her sick brother. But Corrie has to push Old Peg all the way from Scotland to London, so we’re in for a lengthy story full of adventures.

And the same still goes for “Fran of the Floods”. Fran and her friend Jill have now fallen foul of a cult movement that whips them into ploughing fields in the never-ending rain. They don’t see any way to escape, but we know they will.

Meanwhile, Miss Wortley has put the best tracker in the district on the trail of Betsy and Mary. But the tracker does not like the cruel Miss Wortley either and ends up helping the girls to fake their deaths and taking the heat off. But it looks like there is another cruel woman coming along to ill-treat Betsy and Mary….

Save Old Smokey is now on its penultimate episode. Gresby looked set to win, but now an emergency has forced him to seek the help of the very people he was trying to destroy!

Friends of the Forest ends with Maya revealed to be the offspring of an elopement in Colonel Weatherby’s family due to his snobbishness. He is now remorseful and this becomes instrumental in giving Sally and Maya the happy ending. Next week is “Then There were 3…”. This story is drawn by Phil Townsend, who is also drawing “Save Old Smokey”, so it’s going to be another overlap of artwork next issue.

Stacey thinks she has got everything sewn up with her hypnotic powers over Tania, including planting suggestions to cut her off from avenues of help. But the blurb for next week tells us that Stacey has overlooked something. Unfortunately, it does not sound like it is going to provide the rescue.

Ma Siddons has been commissioned to improve the IQ of a dimwitted bulldog. Dora Dogsbody is of course lumbered with the hard draft. There is an unexpected twist at the end that saves the day. We can’t help wondering if it was fixed as it is a bit hard to swallow. But it does put Ma Siddons well and truly in her place – until the next issue anyway.

Jinty & Lindy 20 March 1976

Jinty 20 March 1976

Fran is in danger of drowning while diving for food in a submerged village – and all for nothing because the food has already been taken. And as the cover says, Miss No-Name’s only friend is a donkey, but Ma Crabb is using it to ensnare Lori even more by threatening the donkey with nasty things if Lori does not do as she says – which includes a dangerous climb on a ruinous tower!

Miss Wortley goes too far with her cruelty to Betsy and Betsy collapses from sunstroke. And now Miss Wortley has turned on Mary with a terrible punishment that could cause Mary to die from fright. Next week Betsy resorts to desperate measures to save her, and we have a strong suspicion this will mean doing a runner together. It had to happen.

It’s part 2 of the Slave of Form 3B. Stacey is still at the testing stage of her hypnotic powers over Tania. But now she’s satisfied and is out for bigger things with her new power.

Nobody is signing the petition to save old Smokey – until they see Gresby bullying Billie! Next moment they’re flocking to sign, so that’s one mean trick that’s backfired on Gresby. But he’s back with another trick – setting Old Smokey on fire!

Carrie Lomax is on her way to Scotland to stay with gran, because Mum has too many problems over poor sick Peter to give her the attention she needs.

Katie the Jinx and her friends are taking the bus to see a horror movie. But their attempts to get in the mood for it end up jinxing the driver. He is full of dread when he hears them talking about how they are going to get into the mood for the cowboy movie next week.

The nasty Walkers and their ally Miss Knight are finding that the Friends of the Forest are very adept at hiding and can’t flush them out.

It’s high fashion in Dora Dogsbody as Ma Siddons has them dressing up in smart clothes for a fashion parade. She says it’s all for charity, but when Dora finds that Ma Siddons’ charity is herself (surprise, surprise!), it’s all hilarity as Dora puts things right.

Jinty & Lindy 28 February 1976

Jinty 28 February 1976

  • Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Friends of the Forest (unknown artist – Merry)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Too Old to Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Wanda Whiter than White (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Bound for Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)
  • Save Old Smokey! (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Penny Crayon

This issue is high on people being wrongly accused of stealing. Lori, aka Miss No-Name thinks she has outsmarted Ma Crabb this time, including walking upside-down on a plank with her feet tied! But she soon finds everything was a setup and she has been branded a thief. Ma Crabb thinks she has finally broken Lori, but instead it just makes Lori more determined.

In “Bound for Botany Bay”, Betsy and then Judy have also been branded thieves. The real thief turns out to be a maid, but it’s Judy who’s left carrying the can and throws herself overboard rather than be hanged. The callous Captain leaves Judy for dead, but the second ship sailing not far behind the convict ship has us wonder….

In “Wanda Whiter than White” Susie and her mother have been wrongly accused of shoplifting thanks to telltale Wanda jumping to conclusions. But it is because of this that Susie discovers what has made Wanda what she is – and it is also connected to stealing!

It’s the penultimate episode of “Too Old to Cry!” Nell and Sara want to rescue Mr Flicker the horse from Mrs Arbuthnott, but they have to do it without being caught by her incredible talent for lying her way out of anything.

The radio says the floods have caused the country to break down completely, and then underlines the point by going dead. But the panel for Fran of the Floods on the cover is jumping ahead a bit – it does not appear in the story until next week!

The Friends of the Forest are getting stronger with their friendship, but the danger is mounting. The Walkers’ latest ploy to get to the deer is to pretend to be nice to Sally. Sally soon finds what they’re up to, but not before they have a posse set against her friend Maya.

Grandad’s plan to save old Smokey has Gresby going as far as to pay off children to bully Billie. And then he bribes villagers with treats to stop them signing her petition.

What makes a story work, pt 3?

Following on from my earlier posts, more about what makes a story work. The discussion points in this post are more focused on the work of the artist, whereas the ones in the previous post were more around what the writer does.

  • Art quality. Is the art convincing and solid, with movement and vigour where required? Can the artist actually follow-through on technical requirements such as drawing ballet steps, gymnastics, and horses? Or is it inaccurate, stiff, or lifeless?
    • Of course this is primarily the artist’s responsibility, but there is some input from editorial departments. They may ensure, for instance, that art drawn by Spanish artists matches the British location that most stories are supposed to take place in by adding in pillar boxes and the like. Few artists in Jinty and other comics of this era are anything other than good to extremely good, so overall art quality is normally not a factor in the story not working. However, the artist may have specific gaps in what they can and can’t draw convincingly.
    • Stronger: There are so many strong artists that it is difficult to pick out one over the other except on the basis of personal preference. Mario Capaldi can draw faces, action sequences, and solidly convincing backgrounds, and is almost universally loved, but you could also say the same of my personal favourites Trini Tinturé, Phil Gascoine, and Phil Townsend. I think perhaps my favourite art on all the stories might however be Terry Aspin’s work on “Alice In A Strange Land”, in which he brings a strange jungle-wrapped lost city to life, alongside the British schoolgirls who have strayed into it.
    • Weaker: I find the Ken Houghton art on “Tansy of Jubilee Street” to be adequate but unexciting. It can be stiff at times when the artist has intended an action sequence, which is bad news. But even excellent artists can have off-days, too: Jim Baikie’s art is normally top-notch, but in parts of “Miss No-Name” some faces and sequences are very patchy, and possibly even filled-in by another hand. Finally, even if the artist is generally good, a specific failure to draw ballet well will condemn the story in the eyes of those who can spot that, as Mistyfan commented on a previous post.
  • Art style. The style of the artist needs to be matched to the story requirements. A light-hearted comedy story typically uses a more exaggerated style, and a sentimental or sad story might need something more restrained.
    • This might be an editorial decision in commissioning the right artist for the job, but it might also involve the artist deciding to use a variation on their usual style. Mario Capaldi and Jim Baikie are examples of artists who had humorous and serious styles that can be readily distinguished not because they look radically different but by the exaggeration of the character’s actions and expressions.
    • Stronger: This was generally a close match in any case. In other titles you could cite the use of John Armstrong to illustrate gymnastics in the Bella stories; in Jinty a close parallel would be the usage of Mario Capaldi for any sports story – for instance his superb depiction of the dramatic moments and of the swimming action in “Cursed To Be A Coward!
    • Weaker: I think I would choose the selection of Trini Tinturé in “Prisoners of Paradise Island”. Trini is an excellent artist for showing scheming and plotting elegant ‘bad girls’ rather than hockey-playing schoolgirls. Similarly, José Casanovas in “The Darkening Journey” is always a slight mis-match for me as his animal characters are beautifully drawn but a tad too intrinsically cheeky-looking for such a sad and dramatic story. Finally, although I like Keith Robson’s art on “The Goose Girl” a lot, the Dutch publishers of Tina clearly felt that they wanted an art style that matched the continental expectations (such as a clear, clean line) as the same fundamental story was re-drawn in a Tina Topstrip.
  • Consistency of art. If the artist or the quality of the art changes visibly during the run of the storyline then this will be noticed by readers and is likely to have a negative impact on how well the story works overall.
    • If the artist is unwell or over-committed there might be a requirement for the editorial team to get another artist to fill in some or all of the remaining episodes of a story. Alternatively, another artist might perhaps collaborate to help finish the work in time (for instance by inking the original artist’s pencilled drawings). Presumably this might be an informal arrangement between artists if they were able to do this (for instance if they shared the same studio), but as there will have been people’s salaries at stake too I am assuming this was more likely to be an editorial decision to ensure that the story could be completed rather than abandoned.
    • Stronger: I am not aware of any examples where an inconsistency in the artwork actually benefitted the story (for instance if a mediocre artist was replaced by a better one). Even if the art changed for the better, the change itself would be jarring and intrusive. Ongoing humorous strips such as “The Jinx from St Jonah’s” did tend to have a few different artists working on it over the years and this was workable as there tended not to be a single story that would be badly affected by this change.
    • Weaker: This didn’t actually happen very often in Jinty‘s run. The obvious example is “Champion in Hiding” which started off with Mario Capaldi’s beautiful work and moved on to being drawn by Hugh Thornton-Jones, better known for his art on humour stories such as “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!”.
  • Character design. Making the characters in a story look and behave distinctively on the page is partly visual and partly about their dialogue and actions. Is the result a solid, convincing character or can you hardly tell them apart from other characters in girls’ comics? Worse, can you hardly even tell who’s who in the same story?
    • There is a lot of responsibility on the artist to bring a clear and distinctive visual identity to the character; at a minimum the inhabitants of the story should have different hairstyles, shapes, clothes that separate everyone out and make sure the reader is not confused. Ideally they should also have distinctive body shapes, body language and so forth too. The writer will have an impact too, in giving the protagonists an individual drive that will make them separate from others via distinctive dialogue and so forth.
    • Stronger: Jim Baikie was a very long-running Jinty artist, illustrating many continued stories and one-off Gypsy Roses. He certainly reused hairstyles (Fran of “Fran’ll Fix It!” shared a hairstyle with the protagonist of this Gypsy Rose story) but nevertheless each of his characters is visually distinctive in multiple ways – body shape, body language, freckles, and so on. No danger of mistaking his characters even when they do have some features in common.
    • Weaker: Comos’ schoolgirls across various stories illustrated by him have a bit too much similarity, I feel: I’d pick out the characters in “Destiny Brown” and the protagonists of “The Haunting of Form 2B” as being particularly visually similar.
  • Layout. There is a lot of thought that goes into getting an effective layout at the level of the individual panel and at the level of the whole page. Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Always Work gives an idea of the sort of panel layouts that a US mainstream comics artist might use to vary the visual interest on a page; the conventions and standards for British weekly comics may differ a bit but will share a lot of requirements for varying the focus in each panel. Page layouts likewise can be pedestrian or innovative, with varying sizes of panel within and artwork that breaks out of the constraints of the panel border.
    • Again much of the responsibility of this lies with the artist, but the editorial team may also have input – for instance there may be a general instruction that pages should use a layout based on a nine-panel grid or on a six-panel grid to allow for larger panels. Pat Mills talks interestingly about working with the artist to create a dymanic page layout and strong panel layouts too. I don’t think that writers in this kind of comic usually would script down to this level (though in US mainstream comics they often will) but of course Pat was also an editor.
    • Stronger: There are a lot of really good and interesting layouts in Jinty, Misty, and Tammy, perhaps more so than in other titles from the time. “Concrete Surfer” has some very dynamic and interesting layouts depicting the protagonist’s skateboarding tricks; “Land of No Tears” is slightly more conventional but often breaks the borders or uses irregular panels for a dramatic effect.
    • Weaker: no immediate examples come to mind.
  • Incidentals. I am using this to refer to little background details in the artwork or the story.
    • This could be down to ideas from artist or from writer. Perhaps the artist will particularly need to fill the background somehow and may therefore put in extra detail either humorous or nostalgic.
    • Stronger: For instance Jim Baikie includes little jokes in the background of “Fran’ll Fix It”: they may be joky signs or funny things happening behind the protagonist’s back. There may also be little touches of colour that the writer may also include; I have always remembered a bit of dialogue in “Merry at Misery House” where Merry says she’s “not as green as [she’s] cabbage-looking!’ This is not in fact anything invented by writer Terry Magee but it’s a nice touch of appropriate vernacular and always lived on in my memory.
    • Weaker: It would be possible for the background detail to be over-egged and too intrusive. I can’t think of an immediate example that comes to mind however.
  • Design / font / lettering. The lettering of the dialogue in Jinty and similar comics are all typed in a standardised font, without any big distinction between strong emotion and ordinary ones (there can be a slightly bolder effect used but with the low print quality on newsprint this is not very easy to distinguish). However, the logo for the story title itself is more distinctively rendered to match the story it heads up. There are also lettering elements in the artwork that can be done well or less well – shop-fronts, newspapers within the story, and so on. Unlike in other comics genres, sound effects (another possible element to be done well or less well) are not greatly used.
    • I assume the story logo would have been done in-house editorially but this would need confirmation; I could also imagine it as supplied by the artist. The lettering would certainly be done by someone other than the artist as we can see by the consistency of the font used.
    • Stronger: A number of the story logos have a fairly simple design just using a natty font, so anything more than this can be quite striking. I like the design of the “Fran of the Floods” logo, with plain lettering but the addition of rain and a pool of water.
    • Weaker: Sometimes the logo font has no obvious sympathy with the title and just seems to have been chosen because it hadn’t been used particularly recently. “The Four-Footed Friends” is an example; nothing wrong with the story logo, but it doesn’t add anything extra.
  • Format / edition / pagination. The Jinty stories were only reprinted by British publishers in annuals rather than in albums collecting the whole story together, but of course translated editions did exist that brought the whole of a story under the same covers. This could potentially mean that a story either feels stronger in reading it as a cohesive whole, or perhaps that weaknesses of pacing are more clearly felt and so the whole story works less well when read as a single edition. Alternatively, a story may even be entirely too long for some formats. Finally, the format also includes the page size and other publishing decisions – how many pages will be in that week’s issue? Which pages will be printed on the double-page spread at the centre, or on the front or back where you can only see a single page at a time? These decisions are all very specific to the individual printing of a story and don’t necessarily impact how a story reads over its lifetime over more than one printing.
    • These format decisions are all editorial and would be unlikely to be down to anything decided by artist or writer (though a popular artist or writer could be ‘rewarded’ by being given a plum location in the weekly edition of a title, of course). I would assume that  in these cases, the writer and artist will not typically have known in advance whether their story was to be printed on a double-page spread or on the right-hand page (meaning that the reader needed to turn over to reveal the next page) and would not have specifically tailored the story as a result. (In other kinds of comics publications this kind of fine-tuning is possible and even normal.)
    • Stronger/ weaker: I have not got good examples of stories that could make a stronger or weaker impact depending on the editorial choices of edition and pagination, but perhaps a reader of one of the translated albums may have views based on that experience.

Story theme: Sports

Many apologies for the long break in between posts. Life has got hectic and the run-up to Christmas didn’t help!

Jinty and Penny cover 7 February 1981

Stories featuring sports are very prevalent across the range of girls’ comics titles. This clearly taps into both the day-to-day experiences of many or most schoolgirls (playing on their hockey or netball teams) and into aspirational ideals (winning regional or national contests, going on to have a career in their chosen sport, excelling at unusual sports). At one end of this theme, many many stories will have some element of sports included, simply as a part of the protagonist’s daily life; I don’t count these as “sports stories” per se. At the other end of the spectrum, there are stories that are clearly mostly about the pursuit of excellence in the protagonist’s chosen sport, with a sprinkling of some complicating factor to spice the story up, such as peer rivalry. And in between there are stories where the sports element are strongly included but given a reasonably equal weighting with other elements.

To me, therefore, a “sports story” needs to feature the sport in question as the main story element, or with equal weight with the other elements. Often the story positively teaches us various details of that sport in a didactic way, as if part of the expectation is that readers might have their interest sparked by that story and go on to take it up themselves. The protagonist is someone who takes seriously the idea of practice, learning, improvement in their chosen area: they are not just naturally gifted without trying at all, and part of the drive of the story is about their drive to improve or to excel.

It seems obvious, but it also needs to be a sport not an art: as you would expect, there are plenty of ballet stories, and these are excluded from my categorisation. Ballet has its rivalries but it is not a competition with winners and losers, except in artificial ways that the writer might set up (for instance in “The Kat and Mouse Game”, the ‘winner’ gains a contract with an influential ballet impresario).

Finally, it is worth remembering Jinty also had a strong focus on sports in ways that lay outside of the stories themselves: for a period of time there was a specific sports section in the comic, with articles about specific sports, improvement hints and tips (such as how to win at a bully-off in hockey), and interviews with sports women and men. Over and above this, there was a lengthy period where Mario Capaldi drew cover images illustrating a very wide range of sports – netball and rounders, yes, but also archery, bob-sledding, ski-jumping… These are not sports stories, but form part of the context in which the sports-themed stories need to be read.

Core examples

There are so many strong sports stories that it is hard to choose a single one as a core example. A wide range of sports are represented: ones that a schoolgirl might well have direct experience of such as hockey, gymnastics, running; and more unusual ones like judo, water-skiing, and figure skating.

“White Water” (1979-80), drawn by Jim Baikie and included in the sports section that Jinty ran for a year or so from late 1979, is a classic example of a story that includes teachable elements as well as dramatic ones. Bridie is in a sailing accident with her father, who is killed: her grieving mother moves them away from the sea and into an industrial city that depresses Bridie mightily. As well as grieving for her father, she also has a gammy leg that was badly hurt in the accident, so Bridie is pretty fed up; but she then finds out about a local canoe club. She is determined to learn canoeing, especially once she is told about sea or white-water canoeing. Along the way there are rivalries and misunderstandings – her mother hates the idea of Bridie doing anything at all like sailing, and the existing star of the canoe club doesn’t like the challenge represented by this bright (and sometimes tetchy) new member. But the story includes lots of information about canoeing techniques, certainly enough to either help interest a reader in the sport, or even to help someone already learning it.

You can see below the wide range of sports represented in Jinty.

  • Prisoners of Paradise Island (1974) – hockey
  • Hettie High and Mighty (1975) – hockey
  • Ping-Pong Paula (1975) – table tennis
  • Tricia’s Tragedy (1975) – swimming
  • Miss No-Name (1976) – athletics
  • Go On, Hate Me! (1976-77) – athletics, particularly running
  • Battle of the Wills (1977) – gymnastics and ballet.
  • Concrete Surfer (1977) – skateboarding
  • Cursed to be a Coward! (1977) – swimming
  • Curtain of Silence (1977) – cycling
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel (1977) – cross-country running
  • Darling Clementine (1978) – water-skiing
  • Wild Rose (1978) – gymnastics
  • Black Sheep of the Bartons (1979) – judo
  • Prisoner of the Bell (1979) – gymnastics
  • Waves of Fear (1979) – swimming/hockey/orienteering
  • Toni on Trial (1979-80) – athletics
  • White Water (1979-80) – sailing/canoeing (see above for details)
  • Blind Faith (1980) – showjumping
  • Tears of a Clown (1980) – long-distance running
  • Child of the Rain (1980) – tennis
  • Minnow (1980) – swimming
  • Spirit of the Lake (1980) – figure-skating
  • Tearaway Trisha (1980) – cycling
  • The Bow Street Runner (1981) – long-distance running
  • Diving Belle (1981) – high-diving
  • Life’s A Ball for Nadine (1981) – netball (and disco dancing, competitively)

 

Edge cases

As ever, there are clearly-related stories that don’t quite fit in the main theme. Sports are such a pervasive trope in the life of Jinty and other girls’ comics precisely because they were an important part of many girls’ school lives. Of course they also made up a big part of other popular fiction read by girls; it becomes a reinforcing theme that is always available for use.

  • Jackie’s Two Lives (1974-75) – features a mentally disturbed woman grieving over her late daughter and trying to recreate her in another girl, but also features horse riding and show-jumping
  • Wanda Whiter than White (1975-6) – the main story theme is constant trouble with an interfering, tale-telling girl, but also features horse riding and show-jumping
  • Champion In Hiding (1976) – the champion in question is a sheepdog, trained to win at dog trials
  • Rose Among the Thornes (1976) – the main story theme is family rivalry, but there are sections where Rose is involved in running races in her local village
  • Stage Fright! (1977) – includes some realistic elements of sailing
  • Land of No Tears (1977-78) – gymnastics and swimming as part of the futuristic competition to find the most perfect schoolgirl
  • The Changeling (1978) – main character loves horseriding and this is used as part of the abusive family/wishfulfilment story
  • Knight and Day (1978) – really a story about an abusive family but includes a family rivalry based around swimming and competitive diving
  • Paula’s Puppets (1978) – a story of magical objects and group strife, but includes elements of athletics (running)
  • Combing Her Golden Hair (1979) – a strange comb has the protagonist rebelling against her strict grandmother, whose rules include a ban on swimming
  • Freda’s Fortune (1981) – mostly wish-fulfilment gone wrong, with horseriding
  • Holiday Hideaway (1981) – protagonist has gymnastic skills
  • Worlds Apart (1981) – each dream-like parallel world featured a society built around an individual’s interests, and this included a sporty girl’s world

 

Other thoughts

This is probably one of the most pervasive themes you could possibly have in a girls’ comic; no doubt those who are expert in other comics titles will be able to mention many more examples of stories and of unusual sports featured in them. Reviewing the list above, I am surprised not so much by the number of stories as of the range of sports included. Of course the sports that girls played on a regular basis at school – hockey, swimming, athletics, netball, running – would feature in the girls’ comics. Even then, the weighting of specific sports doesn’t seem entirely even, mind you – in Jinty there was only one netball story compared to two or three hockey stories, and a few athletics stories. There is a noticeable absence of lacrosse stories despite the fact they are a staple of girls school prose fiction (I am sure they must be included in some other comics titles). I also don’t recall any rounders stories, which was a very typical summer sport for girls to play.

I am sure that other titles included some aspirational sports such as figure-skating or show-jumping as Jinty did, and the inclusion of some ordinary if less usual sports such as orienteering doesn’t seem unlikely either. However, the fact that skate-boarding, table-tennis, and judo were included as part of the range of stories shows, I think, that Jinty wanted to push the boat out and include elements that were not just a bit unusual, but also modern, fresh, and popular in the wider world: elements that were not marked as ‘élite’ and expensive.

Jinty 8 May 1976

Jinty cover.jpg 001

  • Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • For Peter’s Sake! (artist Ana Rodriguea)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • House of the Past (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Alley Cat
  • The Slave of Form 3B (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Then There Were 3… (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Bound for Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)

This is another cover I find very striking. It breaks away from the boxy three panel covers that started in 1976 to more dynamic layouts with the streaky lightning borders.

Lori’s dark girl disguise works for her to win the race and the trophy that could be a vital clue to her past . But Lori forgot one thing about black polish on the skin – sweat makes it come off! She’s forced back to to the nasty Crabbs and now the battle with them is worse than ever because of the trophy she won. And now Miss Crabb is on the brink of finding where Lori hid it!

In For Peter’s Sake!, Corrie runs into some unfriendly, snobby people who look down on her as a tinker. But then she gets quite a surprise when she and Peg run into some travelling folk who are far nicer. Fran of the Floods encounters a village where the people are even more unfriendly – to the point of threatening them with guns – although they have an injured girl who needs medical attention.

In The Slave of Form 3B, there is some comeuppance for Stacey as we find she has gotten a tad dependent on her hypnotic powers over Tania. She tries to use it to cheat in a test – but finds her access to Tania blocked and she ends up with rock bottom marks! Unfortunately we know that will just make her worse than ever, and sure enough, she is now planning a terrible revenge at a swimming session.

In “House of the Past”, things begin to get scary for Anna Bentley. Someone or something seems to be trying to turn her into Helen Fairley, a girl who drowned in the 1930s. Now  people in the house are wearing 1930s clothes and then Anna finds her wardrobe full of those types of clothes as well! Things get even more frightening in Then There Were 3, when the girls have a magnificent feast in a supposedly derelict inn – and when they wake up next morning, they find it truly derelict!

Meanwhile, it’s all happy in Bound for Botany Bay, where Betsy Tanner is finally reunited with the father she has been trying to find for so long. Now they’re all set to start a new life on a new farm – but then the past catches up in the form of Miss Wortley. And so they learn that as long as they remain convicts, they can never be truly free. And what can be done? After all, they did commit the crimes that got them transported. We realise that the conclusion of the story will have to sort this out somehow, or it will not be a happy one.

Jinty and Lindy 15 May 1976

Jinty and Lindy 15 May 1976

It is a tussle between amnesiac Lori Mills and the wicked Ma Crabb, once again: Lori tries and tries to escape Ma’s clutches by finding someone who might recognize her despite her shorn scalp. Will she succeed? We are left on a cliffhanger, of course!

We get another cliffhanger in “Fran of the Floods”: a village that the girls have come across is forbidding entry to any strangers. Fran has to risk it to find her friend Susan, who has gone to try to find a doctor for her leg, but the ominous crosses on the doors are going to make the reader think of plague and illness.

In “The Slave of Form 3B”, Stacey is gloatingly aware of her ‘power of life and death over Tania’: she has hypnotized the timid girl to fall into the school pool once a key phrase is said. This is so Stacey can act the heroine by doing a quick spot of life saving. However, this act ends up getting Matron involved, who gives Tania a tape recorder, upon which Stacey’s next set of hypnotic instructions are recorded… will this tip off Tania once and for all about the malevolence of her supposed friend?

Stories in this issue:

  • Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • For Peter’s Sake! (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • House of the Past (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Alley Cat
  • The Slave of Form 3B (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Bound for Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)
  • Then there were 3… (artist Phil Townsend)

Jinty and Lindy 14 February 1976

Jinty and Lindy 14 February 1976

This issue has a filled-in (but not cut-out and sent) version of the form you were supposed to send in with your letters. It gives the reader’s name as Lillian Coates, age 12, living in Leytonstone. Her favourite stories were “Wanda, Whiter than White”, “Fran of the Floods”, and “Save Old Smokey”.

In “Miss No-Name”, the wicked Ma Crabb cuts Lori’s hair so that no-one will recognize her as the missing young athlete: meaning that the Crabbs can keep her as their unwilling wee slave. This sort of petty humilation is not untypical of a slave story, of course.

In “Fran of the Floods”, Fran has not yet started out on her voyage to find her sister; things are getting progressively more and more savage near to home, as climate change is making more of an impact locally as well as globally.

Stories in this issue:

  • Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Friends of the Forest (unknown artist ‘Merry’)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Too Old To Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Wanda Whiter Than White (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Bound For Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)
  • Save Old Smokey! (artist Phil Townsend)